Steps to Follow in a Pedestrian Accidents Aftermath
Florida is not known for pedestrian friendliness and ranks amongst the states with the highest number of pedestrian accidents per capita. In fact, nine of the 20 U.S. cities with the most annual pedestrian crashes are in Florida. Overall, as a state, Florida ranks number one for pedestrian deaths between 2008 and 2017 according to Smart Growth America.
Are Florida Roadways Dangerous by Design?
There is little doubt that sidewalks and crosswalks make pedestrians safer. However, other features including efficient public transportation, separate bike lanes, and pedestrian overpasses also contribute to pedestrian safety.
Florida is not a state that is easy to navigate on foot because it is so spread out. Florida’s population is also growing as many retiree snowbirds are choosing to permanently move to the state, according to the Herald-Tribune. Based on this data, there are likely to continue to be more cars than ever on Florida roadways, making it even more difficult and dangerous for pedestrians to navigate the roadways safely.
When You are Struck by a Vehicle
If you are a victim of a pedestrian accident, you might suffer life-threatening injuries and you may be unable to do anything except wait for help after the accident. However, if you are able, there are certain steps you should take immediately after an accident. These steps are as follows:
- Step one: Get to safety – The first consideration should be your personal safety. Make sure you are not in any further danger from other vehicles in the roadway. If you were struck in a crosswalk, get back to the sidewalk as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Step two: Request aid from others – If you have a cell phone, contact local law enforcement immediately. If you do not have a cell phone on your person, ask anyone in the area to contact law enforcement on your behalf. When speaking with law enforcement, make sure you do not take responsibility for the accident.
- Step three: Gather information – You need to get as much information as possible about the person responsible for the accident. If the driver has stopped, get their name, driver’s license information, license plate number, and the name of their insurance company. If they have fled the scene, ask if anyone saw the responsible vehicle and get as clear a description as possible.
- Step four: Obtain witness information – Ask for names and contact information from any witnesses who saw the incident happen. This will be important for you and for law enforcement. There will likely be an accident reconstruction report developed at some point during the investigation and witnesses will be an invaluable resource for the investigators.
- Step five: Take photographs of the accident scene – When a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, a picture is worth a thousand words. Obtain relevant photographs including images of the immediate area where you were struck and any other relevant perspectives on the scene of the accident like traffic signals, weather conditions, obstacles in the roadway, or anything else you think could potentially be relevant. There is no such thing as too many photographs.
- Step six: Seek immediate medical attention – Even if you do not believe your injuries are serious, you need to seek immediate medical care. Being struck by a car is hard on your body, and the sudden trauma will cause your body to flood with adrenaline. Whether you seek care from your own physician or from an emergency room, you want your condition documented as quickly as possible. If your body shows signs of trauma including bruising, scrapes, cuts, or torn clothing, make sure you take photographs.
- Step seven: Continuous monitoring – After a medical professional has seen you, continue to monitor your physical condition for several days after the accident. Make note of any unusual symptoms you may display including unexplained headaches, body aches, or stiffness. These could be signs of trauma that were overlooked during your initial examination.
- Step eight: Contact the driver’s insurance company – If you have the driver’s information because they stopped at the scene, contact their insurance company. When speaking with an insurance adjuster be certain you do not take any responsibility for the accident. Provide them your name and contact information, and advise them that a police report has been filed. Avoid answering questions. These questions may seem innocent, but they could be designed to trick you into saying that you are not injured or that you may have been at fault for the accident. If you have auto insurance, you should also contact your own auto insurance company. Even though you were a pedestrian you have the right to file a no-fault claim with your own insurance company under Florida law.
- Step nine: Contact an attorney – You should consult with a personal injury attorney if you were injured in a pedestrian accident. This is important because many victims of pedestrian accidents are unaware of their rights. Most attorneys will offer a free evaluation of your pedestrian accident, which is a good thing to take advantage of in case your injuries turn out to be more serious than you thought and you need long-term or expensive medical care.
Common Injuries After Being Hit by a Car
If you are in a car accident and you are in a vehicle, you are offered some protection by the car’s safety features. As a pedestrian, you have no protection from the collision and at a minimum you are going to be thrown to the ground. Some of the following injuries can result from being a pedestrian struck by a car:
- Scrapes, bruising, and lacerations – While these types of injuries may seem simple enough to identify and treat immediately following an accident, they can result in scars that you will have for the rest of your life. Additionally, deep lacerations or scrapes can also lead to infections. Make sure you follow your medical provider’s instructions for the proper care of these types of injuries.
- Broken bones – Because pedestrians are nearly always thrown to the ground during an accident with a motor vehicle, there is a chance that you will suffer a broken bone or multiple broken bones. Broken bones can result in lost time from work, may require surgical procedures for proper healing, and in some cases may result in a permanent limp or disfigurement.
- Head and neck injuries – Depending on the trajectory of your fall, the position you were in when you were struck, and the size of the vehicle that struck you, you could be dealing with head trauma. Concussions are common if you strike your head on the road surface, curb, or the vehicle’s fender. A resulting brain injury can have life-long repercussions. Make sure you report any symptoms of head trauma including blurry vision, headaches, or mood changes to your physician. You should seek medical attention immediately if you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, or unusually tired after any head trauma as these symptoms could be signs of a serious brain injury.
Pedestrians who are struck by a car may also suffer other injuries including back injuries, internal organ damage, or other potentially life-threatening injuries. In some instances, pedestrians do not survive the trauma associated with being struck by a motor vehicle.
Pedestrians Are Usually Not at Fault
While there are rare exceptions when a pedestrian may be at fault for the injuries they sustain after being hit by a car, the operator of the car is usually at fault. According to Florida statutes, cars generally must yield the right of way to a pedestrian. The statute reads, in part:
When traffic control signals are not in place or in operation and there is no signage indicating otherwise, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
Rights to Financial Recovery
Physical trauma is a concern after being hit by a car. However, the financial difficulties you may face as a result of your injuries can be just as concerning as you start on the road to recovery. Depending on the severity of your injuries you may be out of work for several days, weeks, or months while you heal.
Because Florida is a no-fault state, your options for financial recovery may be confusing. First, if you own a car that is insured, you must file a claim with your own insurer, even though you were a pedestrian at the time of the accident. There are also restrictions on filing personal injury lawsuits, which your attorney can explain to you in more detail. Generally, the rules state that you must have suffered a serious injury, which may include disfigurement, the loss of a bodily function such as your hearing or vision, or a permanent injury. If your insurance coverage is insufficient to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other monetary costs, you may have the right to file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company even if you do not meet the personal injury lawsuit requirements.
If your attorney believes you are eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for both monetary and non-monetary losses. Monetary losses include wages you cannot earn during your recovery, medical expenses for doctor’s visits, nursing care during recovery, medications you may need, surgical procedures, and rehabilitation costs where applicable. Non-monetary losses may include pain and suffering and punitive damages when a court determines that the motor vehicle operator acted in a negligent manner, which resulted in your injuries.
Pedestrian Accidents and Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, pedestrians do not always survive a vehicle accident, particularly if they are a child or an elderly person. A family who has lost a loved one in a pedestrian car accident should contact an attorney immediately for advice. Wrongful death claims must be filed by a person appointed by the deceased person’s estate. The person who caused the death by acting negligently is responsible for the same damages they would have been liable for had the person survived.
For surviving family members, no amount of money will replace the loss of your loved one to a driver’s negligent actions. However, you should not have to bear the financial costs associated with such a devastating loss. A wrongful death lawsuit can help you recover financial damages including medical bills associated with your loved one’s care before their death, the unexpected costs of funeral and burial expenses, and wages the deceased person was earning or expected to earn before their death that are lost to your family as a result of their death. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the death.
Pedestrian accidents are frightening, and as populations in Florida increase, these accidents are only likely to increase. Statistically, with increases in population, there is also an increase in the number of vehicles traveling on the roadways. The more cars there are on the road, the higher the risk of injury or death to pedestrians attempting to share the roadway.
It is understandable to be angry and confused if you were a pedestrian hit by a car, or if you lost a loved one to an accident with a negligent driver. You should make sure you understand what rights you have under Florida laws to seek monetary damages from the responsible party. The best way to understand your rights and whether you have the basis for a civil personal injury lawsuit is to contact a Florida pedestrian accident attorney who has experience working with clients who were hit by cars while walking.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765